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Founded by  founded by the Swedish organization The Swallows in Thanapara Village, Bangladesh in 1973, Thanapara Swallows is now a fully independent non-governmental, not for profit organization. 

Located in north-western Bangladesh (an overnight train ride from Dhaka) on the riverbank of Padma (Ganges).

--- As a group of 6 white females we experienced some interesting attention whilst waiting for the overnight train. We were hoping to wait in an assigned waiting room however this was closed. Standing outside another room, one by one men and some women came up to us and formed a circle around us, standing and staring! It was super strange and a little uncomfortable. Putting myself in their shoes I recognised that they never see western people catching a local train specially women and were purely intrigued. I never felt unsafe or as if they were giving the up and down but rather they were just starting at our faces with pure fascination. ----

During the liberation period in 1971, this peaceful village was transformed when on 13th of April the Pakistani Army suddenly invaded the village and killed over 100 unarmed men. This massacre was the largest atrocity in the Rajshahi District during the war. With the destruction of the male heads of household, the families in the village faced certain destitution and hopelessness.

In 1973, the Swedish organization, The Swallows, hearing of the massacre and the resultant desperation of the survivors, began a relief program on 1st October 1973, named The Swallows Association for Social Voluntary Service, Thanapara Project  providing a school, and handicraft program for the war-affected women of the village.

Their mission is centred on empowering the poor and underprivileged population by eradicating illiteracy, creating health awareness and self-employment, raising awareness among the landless for the rights of land and empowering women by creating economic and social awareness.


  •  To contribute to poverty alleviation - assisting community members in the germination of self-employment for a self-reliant future. 
  • To advance and promote the equal status of woman in the family, as well as in society. 
  • To organise different training programmes and increase skill and awareness among the members through participatory training. 


Primary School

All 280 students enrolled in the Primary School Program come from the poorest families in the village.  The students attend both the academic course work and vocational training.  In the vocational training students learn how to weave, to sew, to embroider and to look after a garden.  There are also sports, drama, singing, and small-scale gardening classes. Once a week, the students work in the fields where they gain practical experience in farming.
Year 1-5

In the time we were there we planted some new plants and re-painted one of their colourful walls. The children were so excited to see us. We played clapping games with them and asked them simple english questions like fave colour etc which they loved answering - some many times than once. 

Day Care

Providing everyday regular professional care of children of  Handicraft workers. ft. some darn cute kids!

Health Care

The mutual health care program's goal is to provide a primary health care and medicine to people from Thanapara village and surroundings.  The unlimited membership costs 50 Taka (less than $1 USD). The health centre offers basic health care services and counselling as well as medical products with 30% discount. 

Combating Domestic Violence 

This Project seeks to increase awareness of women and children of their rights in the family and society, and to prevent violence against them. It encourages government to pass a new bill to eradicate domestic violence against women and children. 


The Handicraft Program is divided into these sections: Dying section, Bobbin section, Design, Weaving, Sewing, and Embroidery. In each of these sections, the producers make products either by special order or for general sale, using only local materials. The items produced range from handloom fabrics, to bed covers, wall hangings, from woman and man clothing to various types of bags.

The products are sold largely in Japan, Denmark, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. The organization is a member of the International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT), ECOTA Fair Trade Forum, and Bangla Crafts. 


  • 8 brands @ jan 2018 - People Tree Uk and Japan. 
  • They will develop new fabrics each season and show to brands
  • 22 tailors and 2 pattern makers 
  • 172 workers 
  • 5000 people in village 
  • The organization meets the principles of Fair Trade. 
  • Have to pay 3000 euros a year for fair trade certification 
  • Wages on average 
    • embroidery - 5300 taka/month (approx $82AUD $2.90 a day)
    • weaving 7000-14000 taka/month ($109AUD-$219)
    • tailor as above 
    • min wage 6300 
    • average rent within village 2000 - much cheaper than Dhaka 



Guest house

  • 6+ rooms for guests 
  • We stayed in the same room that Emma Watson stayed in a few years ago when she visited #famous. - see her hand prints above 
  • Kitchen. a group of lovely ladies who cook for some of the workers and guests. 
  • One beautiful lady told us about her past - she finished high school (vary rare for women back then) and married. She had three kids but her husband left over 15years ago so she was left to raise them. One of her sons has mental health problems which is challenging to deal with in a third world country like Bangladesh as the support is limited. And to top it all off her elbow was broken but she couldn't afford surgery so she was cooking for weeks ! 

(The lady is second from the left - what an angel !)




Seeing this factory was an insane eye opening experience; witnessing full sewing rooms, large printing machines, embroidery rooms and over 8000 people gathering for lunch. 

We had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with founder Mohammed Quasem. Guiding us through this monumental and impressive facility, this proud man was eager to share the many positives this business brings. 

Although this factory does supply for fast fashion giants, who arguably are filling the world with more 'crap' they are truely doing the best they can with the cards they have been dealt with, considering their impact on each aspect of operation and continually growing and planning for the future. 

It was positive to see that over 8000 local people now have steady income, safe working conditions and most importantly an opportunity to help provide for they families. 

producing for 

  • H&M
  • Primark
  • inditex
  • Sainsburys
  • Tesco
  • Debenhams


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  • effluent treatment plant (ETP), treating 100% of wastewater to a standard far above the minimal requirements.  

  • less water used in dyeing

    • With only 45,000-50,000 litres of water used per tonne of fabric, this factory is more than four times efficient than the average dyeing plant in Bangladesh.

  • rain water harvesting 

  • LED sewing machines

  • All sewing machines are controlled by servo drive that protects motor life and conserves electricity use by 60%.

Through such pioneering practices, Echotex is saving 19,577,964 KWh of energy per year and reducing CO2 green house gas emissions by 4,191 tons per year.


  • zero discharge ETP
  • solar energy
  • sludge to fertiliser - Sludge is a solid secondary waste produced after treating dyehouse wastewater using a common ETP.
  • air con from waste heat 



  • savings
    • Over 65% of our employees are part of a provident fund scheme. They contribute 8% of their basic salary to this fund each year and Echotex match this contribution.
  • account
    • Every worker is given a BRAC bank account when they come to Echotex, free of charge. In addition we arrange personal loans and deposit schemes through the bank.
  • Wages are raised by 10% after the first year following good performance and to compensate for inflation. 
  • time off
    •  All workers have the right to 10 days casual leave each year and can earn up to 18 additional days off. 14 days of paid annual sick leave is also awarded.
    • The founder states that brands had been asking about living wages and proving lunches prior to the implementation of the program. 

    • He highlights that if you raised their wage to allow for lunch costs they will most likely spend on families not themselves. 

  • on site GP
  • paternity leave
    •  first factory in Bangladesh to introduce paternity leave (1 week paid) alongside our ongoing maternity leave (16 weeks paid) commitment.
  • Free sanitary products are provided for all female workers.
  • creche
  • professional development 
  • 5600 taka/month lowest wage ($3.10AUD/day) (Bangladesh min wage)



  • Total Investment: Over US $70m
  • Annual Turnover: US $100m
  • Garment Output: 36m per year
  • Investment by 2017: US $200m
  • approx 3.4 million pieces a month


  • 58 circular knitting machines with a capacity to make 20 tons of fabric/day.
  • Single Jersey, Rib, Interlock, Fleece, Loop Back, Custom Rib, Pique, Stripes, Twill Tape and  Flat Knitting for polo shirts’ tricot rib.


  • Capable of double rope dyeing in case of low GSM.  Also able to dye regenerated cellulosic derivatives Viscose, Modal, Tencel and its blends.
  •  Two modern equipped laboratories’ one for dispensing & dipping another one for running products & finished products quality based testing lab that are already accredited by Debenhams and H&M.


  • Echotex have the capacity to produce over 3.5M units/month.Also have an automated Italian cutter and spreader to support 150,000 units/day. 
  • In the process of adding warp knitting, outerwear and denim production as our new project with an investment of $100m


  •  screen, sublimation and digital printing facilities, for both placement and all over prints.  specialised placement print including CMYK, discharge, flock, foil, pigment, plastisol, heat transfer, crack, metallic, high build, glow in the dark, heat and light sensitive prints. PVC, Phthalate and Azo free inks.


Had the incredible opportunity of meeting Nazma the founder of Awaj along with four garment workers. Awaj works to empower women workers by helping them improve their negotiating skills and build a better relationship with managers and the garment in industry of Bangladesh as a whole.

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